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What You Need to Know If You Are Interested in Becoming An Air Marshal
There are approximately 43,000 domestic flights in the United States every day. This adds up to almost 2.6 million passengers. Much like communities on the ground, the Federal Aviation Administration must protect both the aircraft as well as each passenger from any threat or malice. Air marshals are the law enforcement officers of the skies. They receive extensive training and are able to handle any type of situation, whether they are in the air or on the ground. They work hand in hand with the Transportation Safety Administration to ensure all flights are as safe as possible.
What Is an Air Marshal?
An air marshal is a specially trained law enforcement officer. As a member of the Federal Air Marshal Service, each agent is trained to identify, neutralize, and eliminate any potential threat while an aircraft is on the ground or in the air. Their intensive training includes hand-to-hand combat, the use of firearms and other tactical weapons, and remaining calm at all times. During a CBS interview, it was learned that air marshals are also taught to strategize and make the most out of every defensive measure they have at their disposal.
As part of the FAMS, these special law enforcement officers can be deployed on military aircraft carriers or positioned on commercial flights. Most are in plain clothes and sometimes confused with a flight attendant or other members of the flight crew. Although they are not on every commercial aircraft, they are placed randomly to avoid being noticed.
What Is the Federal Air Marshal Service?
The Federal Air Marshal Service was established in 1961 in an attempt to thwart hijackers. After 9/11, the FAMS and its duties were expanded. In addition to working with Homeland Security, the FAMS also works with the National Counterterrorism Center. As part of a joint terrorism task force, a sky marshal is able to help prevent terrorist attacks on various types of attacks on airplanes and the passengers they carry.
What Is an Air Marshal’s Duties and Responsibilities?
The duties of an air marshal include detecting potential threats against an aircraft and its passengers. If they are on the ground, they will work with other law enforcement officers to resolve the situation. If an event occurs while a plane is in the air, the marshal may be forced to take control of the situation on their own with no backup.
An air marshal may be required to use a variety of weapons or engage in hand-to-hand combat if necessary. They must be able to strategize and come up with a solution to whatever situation they may find themselves in. Part of their training involves being able to hide their emotions and remain neutral in all situations, no matter what the circumstances.
Steps to Take to Become an Air Marshal
Once you have made the decision to become a sky marshal, you will need to ensure you meet all of the requirements and be ready to make a commitment that will change your life. Every candidate who decides to pursue this path will have to provide an abundance of personal information. Just like choosing to enter into any law enforcement profession, becoming an air marshal takes a level of commitment and dedication that many people fail to realize until they begin their federal air marshal training.
The Application Process
There are several steps to the application process. The first step is to fill out an application. This involves providing an abundance of personal information. You will also have to meet a very strict list of requirements, including:
- Be between the ages of 21 and 37
- Sit through an in-depth personal interview
- Submit to a full medical exam
- Complete a psychological assessment
- Pass a polygraph
- Complete a physical training program
- Pass a background check
Once you have successfully fulfilled these requirements, you will be able to enroll and complete the Federal Air Marshal Training Program.
Successfully Completing the Federal Air Marshal Training Program
If a person completes every step of the application process, they will move on to the Federal Air Marshal Training Program. The program has three phases.
- Phase I – One-week orientation
- Phase II (FAMPT-1) – The first seven weeks are spent at FLETC (Federal Law Enforcement Training Center) in Artesia, New Mexico. During the first phase, basic law enforcement skills and knowledge will be taught. Applicants will also have to complete rigid physical performance evaluations in order to move on to Phase III.
- Phase III (FAMPT-2) – Phase III lasts for eight and a half weeks and takes place in Atlantic City, New Jersey at the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) Training Center. During Phase III, applicants are introduced to the necessary knowledge and skills that will allow them to successfully handle any situation, no matter how difficult. They will need to hone certain abilities that will allow them to execute difficult tasks quickly and efficiently to resolve a situation.
After all of the training is completed successfully, the new air marshal can begin their career and await their first assignment. This type of training can be intense at times with a lot of information being offered in a short amount of time.
Continuing Education Courses
As new air marshals, they will begin to use their skills as soon as they are given their first assignment. To maintain their certifications and keep them in good standing, they must successfully complete 160 hours of continuing education courses each year. These courses keep the agents up-to-date on their information and help them to maintain their skills to the highest level.
While some are simply refresher courses, others introduce new skills. Other courses are designed to improve their firearms skills, update their legal knowledge, maintain physical fitness and make sure they are using up-to-date information when performing their duties as a first responder. They are continually building on their investigative skills so they can better perform their duties.
Earn a Degree
While a new air marshal is gaining experience, they should also be enrolling in a degree program that will provide them with the knowledge they will need to further their career. Most air marshals will look toward a criminal justice degree.
There are several degree programs that can be completed online, allowing the air marshal to work while they are earning their degree. Many aspiring air marshals will already have enrolled in a criminal justice degree program and may have completed it prior to applying to the air marshal program.
Air Marshal Wages and Salaries
An entry-level air marshal will start with a salary of approximately $38,000 a year. An air marshal who has ten or more years’ experience can expect to earn approximately $118,000 per year. In 2019, the median salary of around $67,150 and may vary depending on the type of work the marshal does. A tier system is used to determine the starting salaries for air marshals. The factors used to determine what tier an air marshal will begin earning from can include what level of education they have completed as well as how many years of experience they bring to the table. A good example of this is a former police officer who has earned a criminal justice degree and will come into the air marshal program at the highest tier when it comes to earning potential.
Air marshal salaries are funded by the federal government. When the budget tightens, the job opportunities drop. Since 2016, however, there has been an increase in funding and the potential for growth in the marshal service is expected to continue to grow. This projection is expected to extend across the board, including detectives, police officers, secret service agents, and other law enforcement professionals.
You Can Become an Air Marshal
Becoming an air marshal is a career that you can embrace if you love aviation and law enforcement. It allows you to serve and protect passengers and flight crew during domestic or commercial flights just like police officers do in your community. You are able to maintain a safe and secure environment where passengers can travel without feeling stressed or anxious.
Our skies are a frontier where it is much harder to detect a potential threat. With their extensive training, air marshals are able to keep our airways safe and secure. You can be a part of this federal program and work alongside these law enforcement officers. Take the initiative and apply to become a federal air marshal.